While politicians from both sides of the aisle were quick to pour criticism upon last weekend's Missouri State Fair stunt featuring a rodeo clown clad in a President Barack Obama mask, a cottage industry of support is also growing up around the clown Tuffy Gessling.
A "Support Tuffy Gessling" Facebook page popped up late yesterday, with it's originator apparently from Las Vegas; as of Tuesday morning, it had more than 13,000 followers.
"This page was started to show support for Tuffy Gessling a rodeo entertainer that is taking heat for telling a joke that has been around for decades," the page reads. "Tuffy's big sin? He dared to tell the joke using Obama."
Others saw Gessling's big sin as daring to don a stage costume that reminded some onlookers either of post-Civil War minstrel shows in which white entertainers performed in blackface, or just saw the display as another degradation of U.S. political discourse.
Gessling, for his part, has apologized for his portrayal of Obama.
One Gessling supporter has apparently made a shirt commemorating the rodeo clown's stunt, a photo of which was pasted on the Facebook page to the glee of other Gessling fans wanting to know where they could place an order to get their own.
The administrator for the Gessling Facebook page and others have been earnestly trying to post a link to it on the Missouri State Fair Facebook page, but it keeps getting taken down.
Gessling won't find much support from the Missouri State Fair, which is trying to tread the deep end of a public relations disaster, not to mention the prospect of losing its state and federal financing. The fair announced yesterday without naming him that Gessling was banned from future performances at the event.
So while Gessling may not get another audience for the Missouri State Fair, his growing online support shows that he may find a new audience altogether, one larger than the one he found previously in Sedalia.